Thursday, 19 January 2012
I passed on my copy of Bessler's 'Das Triumphirende' to a fellow Bessler admirer, David, with some regret, but pleased that he also has an interest in this particular copy. Inside the frontispiece is a label which reveals that the book came from the library of Emmy Destinn, a world famous Czech opera singer (1878 - 1930). Destinn's close links with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in London are shared by David, a fine violinist with the same company.
Destinn's talents were many and varied - and not only musical. She also wrote plays, novels, short stories, librettos, and poetry; painted on canvas and porcelain; and translated and composed songs. She wrote her first play at the age of 16, and by 18 had followed that with three more. She spoke five languages fluently and wrote her literary work in Czech and German. But David had the same questions as I had - how did she come to own this particular book?
It seems that at the peak of her career she bought the beautiful castle at Stráž nad Nežárkou in Southern Bohemia. Since she moved in, in 1914, Destinn furnished the castle with a great collection of art, antiques and books on all subjects, bought while touring the world. One might be tempted to think that she acquired a copy of Das Tri during her travels, but in my opinion it is more likely to have been collected by the previous owner, Baron Adolf Franz Leonhardi, a man with a keen interest in the occult who held a number of seances at the castle. He accumulated a huge library of esoteric books, many on the subject of hermeticism and alchemy as well as freemasonry.
If the book was acquired by Leonhardi then it may be that he was aware of certain traditions attached to Bessler's books. I have never accepted that I was the first and only person to discover the existence of the pentagrams and hence the other coded items included in the books. If others were aware of secrets within the books and made their own interpretations of the mysterious features of the double portraits, for instance, then they may have recorded their findings somewhere or corresponded with others to share their knowledge. In some archive, museum or private collection there may well be a record of these findings.
It's fun to speculate but I don't want to start down the slippery slope of conjecture - and without evidence there is nothing to base an opinion on. I merely pass on my thoughts for entertainment purposes!
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